Denver Nuggets Mailbag: Vol. 1

by Eric Spyropoulos
Staff Writer
@Eric_Spyros

Welcome to the first installment of our Nuggets.com mailbag! Moving forward we will be looking for your burning Nuggets questions on Twitter (using #AskNuggs) and Facebook, so stay tuned for each mailbag!

It is important to note that all opinions and ideas expressed below are our own and do not reflect any views of the Denver Nuggets’ front office and coaching staff.

Without further ado, let’s answer some of your questions that were sent in this week!

How do you feel this team’s chemistry compares to the rest of the league? – Ron Farrow Taylor (Facebook)

Continuity has been the theme of the offseason for the Nuggets, who are returning the entirety of their playoff rotation along with some new faces in Bol Bol and Jerami Grant. Of course, Michael Porter Jr. could contribute after sitting out the 2018-19 season.

While the majority of the other top playoff teams in the Western Conference made significant changes to their roster over the summer, Denver will begin the 2019-20 season with a lot of familiarity on the roster, which will serve the team well in their early contests. It’s hard to argue that any other team in the league has stronger chemistry than the Nuggets, who have maintained the same core group of players (Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Nikola Jokic, etc.) for several years.

The addition of Grant shouldn’t impact the locker room in any way, as he appears to be a seamless on-court fit for Denver. Given how important each win will be in the Western Conference standings, the continuity that the Nuggets should enjoy throughout the grind of a regular season may prove to be a big boost for the team. – Eric Spyropoulos

What kind of minutes are expected out of MPJ, and who on the roster will see their playing time reduced the most as a result? – Dix Aaron (Facebook)

Porter Jr.’s role in the upcoming season is one of the most interesting storylines and questions that will be answered in a couple of months. Porter Jr. possesses a unique skill set that could allow him to thrive, especially on the offensive end. The 21-year-old forward has a sweet-shooting stroke and good size to score against smaller defenders.

However, there is an impressive amount of depth at the forward positions. Just at the small forward spot you could potentially see minutes for Will Barton, Torrey Craig and Juancho Hernangomez, and that doesn’t include more unique lineups that use Malik Beasley or Jerami Grant at that position.

Porter Jr. projects to be able to play at both forward spots, which could help him secure consistent playing time. While I expect Porter Jr. will battle for the primary backup spot at SF, I don’t anticipate him playing more than 15-17 minutes per game as a result of the other options that head coach Michael Malone has at his disposal.

To answer the second part of the question, those other forwards that I mentioned earlier will have to fight harder to secure playing time as a result of Porter Jr. and Grant’s addition to the rotation. There will be moments in which Malone might prefer to use the defensive-minded Craig, while other situations may call for more shooting and scoring, which could give way to minutes for Hernangomez or Porter Jr. Depth is always a great thing to have in the NBA, but it can create some tough decisions for a head coach on a nightly basis. – Eric

Let’s group this question in with the one above since it relates to the SF position, which appears to be the position most up-in-the-air when it comes to rotation minutes. As mentioned earlier, Malone will have several different players he can use at the position to throw different looks at opponents. While it’s likely Will Barton will receive the starting spot next season due to the success that the starting lineup had with him at SF, the bench minutes could fluctuate depending on opponent and game situation.

The starters with Barton had a +7.8-net rating in 430 minutes of action last season. Due to injuries to Barton, Gary Harris and Paul Millsap, that lineup was only able to play together in 24 games. With improved health this season, look for that lineup to continue to thrive.

If Denver needs a key defensive stop late in a game, Malone can use Craig or Grant at the small forward spot. Perhaps the Nuggets are down double-digits in the third quarter and are looking to make one last attempt at a comeback, in which case it would make sense to use Barton, Beasley, Porter Jr. or Hernangomez at the three spot. While playing time for the specific position group may be undecided, there will be no shortage of players to use in various situations. – Eric

How will the Nuggets improve their road record this year? With 23 or 24 road wins they'll probably have a good shot to win the conference. – Angel Chavez (Facebook)

I bet that if you asked coach Malone what he’d like to see his team improve on (in a big picture view), it would be their performance on the road. In the 2018-19 season, Denver finished with a 20-21 road record. While that marked an improvement over the previous campaign, the Nuggets still had the second-worst road record among Western Conference playoff teams.

When diving into the numbers, it’s easy to see why Denver struggled more away from Pepsi Center. The team shot 34.5 percent on 3-pointers on the road, compared to 35.8 percent in Denver. The Nuggets had the 16th ranked offense and 17th ranked defense in road games, which marked significant drops from their season-long rankings of 7th and 10th respectively.

Improved health across the roster and even more depth will serve the Nuggets well throughout the course of the season. Long road trips can drain a team, but if they have their top players on the court more often and several options to throw out on the court, they will be better suited to win games in opposing arenas.

Although the Nuggets can make up for their inconsistent road play by dominating at Pepsi Center (Denver had the league’s best home record at 34-7 last season), look for coach Malone to stress the importance of pulling out close games on the road. – Eric

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